Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mindfulness Enhances Multiple Dimensions of Critical Thinking

     David Sable PhD taught university students "mindfulness practice(s) extend(ing) into journal writing, listening, inquiry, and dialogue. Taken together, this set of practices became contemplative interaction
     Qualitative results showed increased self-confidence, engagement with multiple points of view, and an unexpected sense of connectedness that was stronger between students who disagreed with each other than between students who found easy agreement in their interaction. 
     Quantitative results showed statistically significant gains in the average number of indicators for critical thinking dispositions appearing in student journals. 
     Students’ sense of connectedness was based on taking an uncertain journey together and risking the suspension of beliefs long enough to be challenged. Connectedness supports critical thinking that is more focused on deeper and broader understanding than winning an argument. It opens the door to respect, empathy, and compassion: reason in service of the heart."

       Sable D. "Reason in the Service of the Heart: The Impacts of Contemplative Practices on Critical Thinking." The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry 2014; 1(1): 1-22.

Peet J van Eeden, National Geographic

Monday, April 28, 2014

BOTH - Hurt Child & Wise Grandparent - At The SAME TIME

     Open-hearted, alert, hypo-egoic engagement with "things as they is", no matter how they is, is doable, though of course it's a work-in-progress. A part of us can rest ("grounded"?) in this timeless, still, loving energy, with increasing stability, even while another part of us is rattled, in pain, etc.


Julie Fletcher, National Geographic

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reality & Entitlement

     It strikes me that reality tests & stretches ad infinitum one's patience, perseverance, humility - basically forcing one into egolessness. This means accepting responsibility for everything - rather than projecting blame externally. The concepts of anicca, anatta, & dukkha describe it best. See:

     Many of today's emerging adults were unfortunately raised as their parents' "center of the universe", catered to 24/7, self-absorbed, egocentric. This makes no sense at all in the reality I live in.
     After the enabling parents are gone, squeaky wheels will be in for a very rough ride, surrounded by other entitled squeaky wheels. A huge wake-up call is starting! Good luck!

Mauro Mozzarelli, National Geographic

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Exclusivism & Growing Up

     We have a huge proclivity to think - to be certain - that our current perspective is correct, true & accurate. This is so, even though most of us can recall how we felt the same certainty earlier in life, but now with 20:20 hindsight, realize how immature & silly we were.
     Personal pride & certainty is usually misguided at best. But when pride & certainty join forces with the momentum of "group think", all hell often breaks loose - mob violence against "competing religions", cult suicides, genocides, ... world wars. If my group is right, others must be wrong AND must be corrected, if not eliminated - this is 'mob mentality'.
     Mercifully, (some) people can & do outgrow this adolescent, rigid, black-and-white phase, realizing that they have many, many higher levels of self-concepts & worldviews to evolve through.
     Sadly, fear of leaving the group, fear of being shunned, fear of leaving behind the comfortable pretense of certainty, keep many otherwise intelligent, educated people stuck in such groups - even if it means having to park their minds & hearts at the door.
     Aging, especially wisely, isn't for sissies. See:

Brian Castellanos, National Geographic

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Feeling Useful

     The sense of "agency" - competence, being capable, "feeling useful" seems to be a very deep basic human drive. If one isn't a "jack of all trades", and few of us are, then one needs to be a "team player". If collaborating with society doesn't work out, especially if one is rejected ("shunned" usually informally) by society, then there are fringe anti-social subgroups.
     Be it in the city, country or wilderness, a human being can rarely "make it" alone. Our ancestors, traveling in small bands, may well have left behind those who couldn't keep up or who could not otherwise contribute to the welfare of the group. So the sense of having to live up to familial, tribal, ... societal expectations is a very real, very deep, inborn motivator.
     But society is also sustained, nurtured, and advanced in unexpected ways. Court jesters - today's political comedians (Bill Maher, Jon Stewart etc) - help both rulers & society see absurdities, & hopefully deal with them more creatively (than avoidance or violence). Those rejected by society or vice versa, also serve as persistent open questions - how can society evolve to become more inclusive, a more healing / nurturing home for too many "wayward children".
     Deep down, all of us care deeply about the long-term welfare of the human race and planet earth. Each of one us is an inherent part of the whole.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Qualities of the Body-Mind during Meditation

     "Our minds are bound up with our bodies, so we need to incorporate our bodies into meditative practice. In each session we will do this by first settling the body in its natural state ... 
     Be at ease. Be still. Be vigilant. These three qualities of the body are to be maintained throughout all meditation sessions."

       B. Alan Wallace. "The Attention Revolution. Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind." Wisdom, Boston, 2006.

Tiplea Remus, National Geographic

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quality of Awareness & Perception

     "By bringing non-conceptual, naked attention to whatever you are feeling or sensing, the impermanent nature of your perceptions is revealed. You witness the dissolution of that which appeared solid."     Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

       Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Fall 2012

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Allowing Elephants to Pass Through

     Blockage or stagnation of energy (qi) is the fundamental cause of illness according to Chinese & Japanese traditional medicine. Energy which is normally "fluid", becomes pathologically "reified" & stuck.
     Western psychology & psychiatry has similar metaphors of "being stuck" re mental illness: wallowing, catastrophization, circular thinking etc.
     A common dysfunctional & ineffective way of (not) dealing with difficult issues is pretending that they don't exist - avoidance. It may be a major problem that's quite obvious to everyone except those who refuse to see, accept & skillfully let go of "the elephant in the room."

     In meditation, we learn to become increasingly porous.
    "When you sit,
     you leave the front door open,
     you leave the back door open,
     and you don't serve tea."                   Shunryu Suzuki 

      Zen talk by Koun Franz: "Beyond Words – December 19, 2013":

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Introduction to Zen — A 4-week Course in Halifax, in May 2014

Introduction to Zen is a discussion-based course intended to give participants a foundation in Zen practice and guiding principles. 

Tuesday evenings in May, 7:30-9pm
(optional meditation from 7pm)
6218 Quinpool Rd. (upstairs)
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Suggested contribution: $40



Friday, April 11, 2014

"How Does it Feel When You're On Your Own, No Direction Home, Like a Rolling Stone?"

     "Usually when someone takes away one of our mental toys we just find new toys. That is one of the reasons why many of the Prajnaparamita Sutras are so long - they list all the toys we can think of and even more, but our mind still keeps grasping at new ones. The basic point is to get to a place where we actually stop searching for and grasping at the next toy. Then we need to see how that state of mind feels. How does our mind feel when we are not grasping at anything, when we are not trying to entertain ourselves, and when our mind is not going outside (or not going anywhere at all), when there is no place left to go?"

       Karl Brunnholzl "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. The heart sutra will change you forever." Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Fall 2012.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

No Fear Here in This Very Moment

     “Fear so completely permeates our lives and so completely dominates our decision-making processes that we don’t even realize that that’s what it is. 
     Every time you hesitate – that’s fear. When you go to the store and you start to buy soap, and you think but maybe I should get this other soap – ahh maybe, I’m not sure. That’s such a small thing, but it’s fear.
     Every time that you cling to something, and say I hope this stays just like this. When you see someone you haven’t seen for a long time and they’re saying goodbye and you hug them and hold them – it can be wonderful, but it can also be born of fear. We hold people, and we hold moments and try to keep them just like this.
     And every time something happens and you flinch, even in your mind, that’s fear. When I was younger, I practiced karate all the time, that was kind of my obsession. And one day my teacher was using me as the demonstration dummy – he did this a lot. And I was standing like this (strong pose) and he said OK, and he turned very quickly and he punched me in the stomach (with a loud kia) - and I flinched. He said “don’t flinch”. I said “Yes sensei!” He said "let’s do it again", and he came at me exactly the same way, except louder and faster – and again, I flinched. And again he looked at me and said “don’t flinch”. “Yes sensei!” And he came at me from the side, and every time, I’d flinch – just a little bit. And he’d say, “don’t flinch”. And he started getting mad. And then it got worse. And then I got really nervous. And then he’s coming at me from all directions. And every time he’d say “don’t flinch” and I’d say “yes, sensei!” And this went on, and on, and on – maybe 20 minutes. He just kept hitting me and saying "don’t flinch". 
     And at the end of that time, I didn’t flinch. He could just hit me. And hearing the story, you might say “he broke you.” Maybe. But I learned something really important. Whenever I flinched I was afraid of how much it was going to hurt. Whenever I flinched I was afraid he was going to do something I wasn’t ready for. 
     But after a hundred times, I know exactly how much it was going to hurt, so the fear becomes irrelevant. There’s no surprise. It doesn’t mean I want him to keep doing it. But there’s nothing to be afraid of, when you see really clearly what’s going on. Fear always is anticipatory. Fear is always us looking into the future, or into the past. But in this moment, in this actual present moment, it is impossible for you to encounter the thing that you fear. By definition, that thing is in the distance. It’s coming. And so you feel this gap. And whenever that arrives, whatever it is, you may feel all sorts of things, but fear will no longer be the point, because now it’s real. It’s no longer just the story in your mind
     We fear that good things will go away. But we don’t have to fear that – because they will. Every person that you know, will suffer in their lives. Every person you know, will die. It’s a fact – more so than taxes. Dreading has nothing to do with the reality of it. Wherever you are in your life today, it will not be the same a year from now. It will not be the same two years from now. And some of you may say “oh no – because I just got this right”. But it will go away. 
     And we fear that bad things will come. And they will. Fearing this is like being afraid of the weather. It doesn’t change it at all. 
     We fear that the way things are today will not improve. What I mean by that is we look around at our lives and we fear that this is all there is. But again we don’t have to fear that. Because right now, in this moment, this is all there is. This is the totality of your life. This is the whole story. And in this moment, there’s nothing missing."
       from Koun Franz "Fearlessness" video

Anja Niedringhaus

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Core Purpose, Philosophy

     The high percentage of self-reported cheating among university students, and other suggestions of an apparent decay in ethics & rise in shallow self-centered behavior is frightening. One has to wonder if individuals are losing the sense of what it means to embody a meaningful philosophy. Faking it is so much faster, easier & seemingly popular. 
     Part of the problem may well be that large companies that once earned loyalty from their life-long employees, now use their employees to train off-shore temps, who then quickly replace their (now 'downsized') trainers. The company can treat & pay off-shore temps even worse. These same companies espouse the critical importance of "customer loyalty”.
     Individuals & companies must be held accountable to embody - not just espouse & advertise - a “core purpose” & “philosophy”, regardless of who they deal with - customers, employees, employers, family, friends. A core purpose or philosophy is fundamentally valuable - way too important to fake. Individuals & companies must learn congruence one way or another. Otherwise, one's life & products are cheap fakes.

     "As Simon Sinek says in ... "Start With Why", products don't create customer loyalty. A company's core purpose does. 

     People are attracted to Apple because of what Apple stands for. Not the gizmos. There are less expensive options out there.
     Yet Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world.
     People are attracted to Nike not because of the shoes, but because they are pulled to the philosophy of Just Do It - whether that pertains to getting fit, or popping the big question, or leaving a bad job or starting your own business."                      Terry O'Reilly, Under the Influence

        "Elevator Pitches" first aired on Monday, May 5, 2014


Friday, April 4, 2014


Capt Greer of the 1st Irish Guards & his machine gun team just prior to leaving for the war. They were all killed in battle soon after this picture was taken.

Photo by Christina Broom, Britain's first female press photographer.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Open Mindedness vs Certainty

     "Uncertainty is a profoundly important practice. ... I trained in a South Korean monastery ... where the practice was to learn how to rest in a state of perplexity - a state that is focused, in that tradition, around the idea of great doubt, of 'What is this?' was the question we asked. That was the only meditation we did for 3 months in the summer, 3 months in the winter, we sit on a cushion, stare at a wall, and ask 'What is this?' 
     That was the most powerful practice I think I ever did as a monk. It's not that you then become some kind of thorough-going skeptic. But it's the fact that you acknowledge that fundamentally, you do not know what is going on. That the world is fundamentally mysterious. I think it's very difficult for Westerners to valorize uncertainty. We always want to know the answer. We always want to be right. And this kind of practice, which has been enormously influential in my life, is about learning to not only live with uncertainty, but actually to cultivate uncertainty. To cultivate an ongoing sense of questioning, of curiosity, of astonishment, of perplexity. This is both an act of humility, it's also for me an act of devotion, which might sound a bit strange, and it really throws into question every kind of certitude or conviction or belief that you might have. And it touches something very deep.
     What brings us to Buddhism in the first place, is that kind of existential uncertainty. And yet so often, as in all religions, we prefer to substitute belief for actually the very living pulse that brought us to that place in the first instance. There's a wonderful aphorism that our teacher Kusan Sunim used to recite all the time: 
          'Great doubt, great awakening;
          Little doubt, little awakening;
          No doubt, no awakening.' "                    Stephen Batchelor

     Above transcribed from the YouTube video: "Stephen Batchelor and Ven Brahmali debate in Melbourne 2014" found on: